Minka Kelly Was a Nurse Before Landing ‘Friday Night Lights’ Role: ‘I Auditioned My Ass Off’

Minka Kelly

Jason Street really was in good hands. Before cheering on the Panthers and attending East Dillon High, Minka Kelly was working in medicine. The actress recently opened up to Us Weekly about landing the role as Lyla Garrity in Friday Night Lights.

“It was the first pilot that I auditioned for! I was working as a nurse at the time and I remember my agent saying they had an audition for me for this Friday Night Lights, and I’d seen the movie, and I was like, ‘Why? A sports show? Based on a movie? Ugh, OK,’” she recalled to Us at a Trulia-partnered event in West Hollywood on Thursday, March 10. 

“I had no idea I’d be so lucky,” she added. “At that time in my life and my career, I would have taken anything! I would have done anything! But that happened to be it!” (Kelly partnered with Trulia, an online hub for apartment and house hunting, to announce the best neighborhoods in America.)

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Friday Night Lights
‘Friday Night Lights’ Michael Muller/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Kelly, 35, said that she “auditioned her ass off” for executive producer Peter Berg. Her determination paid off, and she went on to star on the beloved series, which ran for five seasons from 2006 to 2011. “He puts you through the ringer!” she added of Berg. “I worked really hard for it, but I had no idea how lucky I was to be working so hard for such a special thing.”

Kelly’s ambitious and spiritual character was a part of the biggest love triangle on the series. Lyla found herself torn between best friends Street (Scott Porter) and Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch). The steamy affair between Lyla and Tim took place following Street’s devastating football injury, which left him wheelchair-bound.

Scott Porter as Jason Street and Minka Kelly as Lyla Garrity on Friday Night Lights.
Porter as Jason Street and Kelly as Lyla Garrity on ‘Friday Night Lights.’ Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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The Papa star, who graduated from culinary school last year, explained that she and the cast never could have imagined how successful the drama would become.

“It’s crazy that people watch it more now than when we were shooting it!” she said. “When we were shooting, we barely got every season that we got. The ratings were so low. And every season we had no idea what was going to happen. So it’s so, so nice.” (FNL struggled in prime time, moving from NBC to DirecTV for its last three seasons.)

Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins and Minka Kelly as Lyla Garrity on Friday Night Lights.
Kitsch as Tim Riggins and Kelly as Lyla Garrity on ‘Friday Night Lights.’ Bill Records/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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“We were just doing our jobs. And we were in Austin, so we were unaware of anyone’s reaction. We were certainly in a bubble,” she continued. “I’m so lucky, though. I really hit the jackpot with that show. We all had that great experience together.”

Kelly has stayed in touch with her costars, but her latest reunion was accidental. “I ran into [Fargo‘s] Jesse Plemons [Landry Clarke] at the airport recently and there’s this moment of, ‘Ahh!’ and I’m just so proud of him,” she told Us. “He’s doing so great. I love when I see any of them.”

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